Although the Mahindra Karoo PikUp has been on the market for some time now, ongoing heavy activity in that market prompted CHANGECARS to take a fresh look at how it stacked up against some of the opposition in the sector.

Taking a leap of faith is always a part of the adventure when you decide to venture into a muddy body of water that’s likely to reach dashboard high. The first part of the adventure is trusting that your vehicle will wade through untroubled and the second part is believing that the seals will keep the liquid out.

Grey Mahindra Karoo PikUp in the South African Bush on a dirt road in side view

The Mahindra PikUp in Storm fettle, adorned in dark grey colours, passed both tests with flying colours. It brushed off the obstacle and the water with absolute disdain, transforming the grimace of my passenger into a happy smile.

The Mahindra Karoo triumvirate comes in colours designed to reflect the moods of the region. The initially unappetising grey of the Storm quickly grows on you, and there’s nothing dark or stormy about it out on the road.

The test unit was equipped with big, chunky off-road tyres, which did return quite a lot of road noise on the tarmac. While a set of tyres suitable for all surfaces will reduce this, the choice of tyre will ultimately be up to the buyer and will depend on how they plan to use the vehicle most.

The Storm comes standard with new decals, branded interior carpets, a nudge bar, and a load bin-mounted sports bar with Storm detailing. The cabin is adorned with leather upholstery and features an HD 9-inch infotainment system with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and in-built maps, compared to the 7-inch version fitted to the standard PikUp.

All three Karoo models come with heavy-duty off-road suspension, off-road tyres, hardened 4x4 rims, an additional off-road spare wheel rim, and front and rear steel bumpers for better off-road clearance.

It is powered by Mahindra’s mHawk 2,2-litre turbo-diesel engine, offering 103 kW at 3 750 r/min and 320 Nm of torque in a power band between 1 500 r/min and 2 800 r/min, driving through a six-speed Aisin automatic transmission.

With the globally changing face of the auto industry and the shift away from conventional sedans and hatches in favour of SUVs and, for South Africa in particular, luxury specification bakkies as the primary mode of transport, the Mahindra PikUp sits slightly to the right of the field.

Even at its most luxurious, it screams workhorse, whereas some other marques favour styling and look as the point of attraction for potential customers.

The tough-looking, somewhat conservative exterior of the Storm is very much backed up by its performance off the beaten track, including some serious donga-dicing exercises. It is a highly capable performer with both low and high-range 4x4 to overcome the most formidable obstacles.

The Mahindra Karoo PikUp interior view from the passenger side

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In the rough stuff, the cabin remains a comfortable place to be with the seats suitably shaped to prevent unnecessary sliding around and padded well enough to absorb the bumps. Equally, the cabin comfort is enough to make long hours on the road a pleasant drive.

The off-road tyres take away from on-road ability and the Mahindra PikUp Storm needs to be gentled through turns at highway speeds rather than being thrown at corners – particularly on wet tar roads. As with any vehicle of this type, there are compromises that need to be made and this is one of them.

In terms of price competitors, the Mahindra PikUp Storm faces up with the Toyota Hilux 2.4GD-6 double cab 4x4 SR, Nissan Navara 2.5DDTi double cab SE Plus 4x4 and the GWM P-Series 2.0TD double cab LT 4x4.

In terms of power, it runs well short of the 120 kW offered by both the Nissan and GWM and has less torque than the others although, while this may appear a lot on paper, it never seemed underpowered or struggling while in my hands.

Both Toyota and Nissan claim better fuel consumption but the 9.3 l/100 km returned on the test cycle is not out of range and some can be attributed to the off-road tyres.

Rear view of a Grey Mahindra Karoo PikUp on a dirt road in the South African bushveld

Perhaps its worst score in the comparison comes with the fact it offers only two crash bags against the six or seven included with its competitors – however, navigation, heated rear screen, rain-sensor wipers and auto on-off lights are all included.

It also has a 4-year/120 000 km mechanical warranty and a 5-year/90 000 km service plan.

Colin Windell